Dong Zhongshu Analysis


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Dong Zhongshu (doong joong-SHEW) was born into a rich family of landowners but reportedly was never concerned about his family property, preferring scholarship. Before he was thirty-nine years old, he became known as the “Confucius of the Han Dynasty.” Later, his erudition was noticed by the emperor Wudi, who appointed him chancellor. He resigned when he was fifty-eight years old and returned to his hometown to focus on study and writing.

Dong Zhongshu proposed a theory of the interaction between humans and heaven that demonstrated that the emperor was appointed by heaven. His philosophy involved three essential principles—that the emperor was the host of chancellors, the father of sons, and the husband of a wife—and five ethical regulations—benevolence, righteousness, courtesy, wisdom, and sincerity. Politically, he advocated limiting the gap between the rich and poor and making moral education the main measure and penalty a secondary measure in ruling. He viewed only Confucianism to be the right ideology.


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Dong Zhongshu developed the thought of Confucius, creating a systematically feudal ideology. Therefore, his theories were used by almost all feudal dynasties in Chinese history and deeply affected the culture and society of China for hundreds of years.

Additional Resources

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Fung, Yu-lan. A Short History of Chinese Philosophy. New York: Free Press, 1997.

Queen, Sarah Ann. From Chronicle to Canon: The Hermeneutics of the Spring and Autumn, According to Tung Chung-shu. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.